Service agency reaches out to residents in need
For the last five years, the thoughtful volunteers of Basehor-Linwood Assistance Services (BLAS) have worked diligently to provide area families in need with food and gifts for the holiday season.
Any family who lives within the boundaries of the Basehor-Linwood school district is eligible for assistance.
The group now is focusing its attention on the Christmas season and is working to acquire donations. Gathering donations is a yearly grind for BLAS and this year is poised to be more difficult than years past.
More and more families are in need each year, BLAS director Debbie Dearinger said. That fact, combined with a struggling national economy and the post-Katrina fallout, could mean people are little less willing -- or able -- to donate to a worthy cause this holiday season.
Dearinger sat down with the newspaper this week to discuss her organization, its goals and why area residents should dig a little deeper this holiday season.
Q: With the Christmas season fast approaching, what are the greatest needs BLAS will have this year?
A: I'm worried that donations will not be available to help out the needy of our district. I think that with people giving so much already, there won't be enough left for BLAS. We are in need for the businesses of our district to get involved with BLAS helping out by adopting a child or family for Christmas. I already have a lot of help from the schools and the churches, but only one business is helping me now.
If I could choose one thing the BLAS is in need of it would be a place to store food and clothing for the needy. Right now, I store the stuff at my house and a trailer that the Basehor Lion's Club lets me use. It would be great to have a place that people could go to and get some assistance.
Q: Is the need for assisting local families increasing?
A: Yes, it has increased every year since I've been involved with BLAS. With more and more families moving to the area, we are seeing the need rise and I believe that, with the economy being the way it is right now, we will only see that need increase.
Right now, I have 25 families that BLAS is helping out for Christmas with gifts and trying to make a brighter Christmas for them. Throughout the year though, we probably help out 35 families or more with utilities and food.
Q: Where do most of the donations to BLAS come from? Is the local community as responsive as it should be in providing for local families in need?
A: Most of our donations come from the kids at our local schools when they adopt a child for Christmas or bring in food items. Almost all of the classrooms are involved in some way or another by helping make Christmas better for the needy. BLAS could not do what they do without all their help.
I think that most of the people from our area are not aware of how many people really need help and I believe that they think that our communities are beyond that. They don't realize that things happen in our lives that make it hard for us to make ends meet and that is when they turn to BLAS. I wish that the communities of Basehor and Linwood would realize that BLAS is here and we need help to make things better for all.
Q: How many volunteers does BLAS have? Is there a need for more helping hands?
A: BLAS is a very small group of very dedicated people that see the needs of the communities and volunteer to make it better for them. We get together a couple of times a year to plan for upcoming things.
We can always use help, especially the night before we hand out (gifts) for Christmas to our families. We spend about four hours sorting things into their families so that they can pick up their stuff the next day.
Q: What does the future hold for BLAS?
A: BLAS has been around for about 12 years and helping out more people every year. I hope that the future will bring better things for BLAS with a permanent home for everything and making it easier for people to get help. That is my wish for Christmas.
Q: Why should people help support BLAS?
A: I believe that people should help BLAS because as a small group we do a lot of good for the needy of our district. We do not go out and solicit money and we don't get help from the government. It's strictly from donations.
Q: Why do you help with BLAS?
A: When I see the faces of the families when they come to pick up their stuff for Christmas, I know it's all worth it. Sometimes they cry, sometimes they hug me and sometimes they just say thank you and "we wouldn't have had a Christmas without BLAS help." I know if everyone could have this same experience, they would do this, too.